When I was a student at the Howard University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, I received a Dorothy Danforth Scholarship for “Minority Scholars”. As part of that award we attended an annual conference to enrich our experience and to prepare us for leadership for “the nation and the global community”. I can recall the first such meeting at the University of Texas at Austin. We were brought into a great hall and as I looked up I saw the words inscribed just below the crown modeling ……
“Knowledge is the only investment that never depreciates.”
I got married while working on my Ph.D. and we had our first child. At that time my wife and I made a calculation and we continue to pray that we made the best decision. As a young couple we had limited resources and had a limited amount of cash after our expenses.
The choice was to save for our children’s college education and thusly enrolling them in inferior DC public schools or to invest that money in giving them the best education possible during their pre-school, primary and secondary training.
We opted out of pre-school/daycare and enrolled our children in Montessori schools around three years of age. My wife, Nia, made the calculated sacrifice to volunteer in the school with our first child. By the time of our second child my wife was a teaching assistant in the school and by the time of our third child she was a graduate of the Montessori Institute and an AMI certified Montessori teacher.
The children went to schools that it would have been difficult for us to afford without their mom working in them and she stayed close the children to reinforce our cultural and religious values. We were Black and Muslim in environments that were often one or the other and sometimes neither – but always quality.
We used most of our disposable income to; 1) buy educational materials, 2) to do education related outings and 3) for a time we did homeschooling.
For the first set of children (two oldest) we sent them to the best private high schools that matched their learning styles and that we could afford along with scholarships and financial aid.
Our family moved from Upper North West, Washington, DC to Sterling, Virginia when our oldest child, Mustafa reached his teens in order to be near the ADAMS Center (All Dulles Area Muslim Society) mosque and community. The plan was to provide an environment for spiritual growth and social support – ie . friendships. For High School they attended The Muslim Community School in Potomac, Md and then transferred to The Barrie School in Silver Spring, MD. That has meant that for last three years I make a 2 hour round-trip trek around the Washington Beltway (I-495) every school day morning. It has given me and my teenage children a change to talk, listen to NPR and discuss the news of the world. I think we will always treasure that time together. The commute has been a blessing rather than a curse – the sacrifice has been more than worth it.
They both have received excellent educations as well as the “private school bump” into top colleges. Our gamble was that if our children had the best education that money, time and attention could buy that the dividend would pay off in college and in the years to follow. Our bet was that our children would have the skills, confidence and backgrounds to compete academically for merit based scholarships as well as other forms of financial aid.
Our advice, invest everything you can in your children’s education. Save as much for college as you can but at the expense of their learning experience today and spend your time, money and attention to create an environment of learning and high achievement in your home and community life.
So far so good. We have one more to go. Today, we have a nine year old daugther that is at the Oakton Montessori School with her mom, my wife and our teacher. No matter what my children do in life, they will do it upon the foundation of a solid education.
Knowledge is the only investment that never depreciates.